Texas tea party superstar U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz visited College Station on Monday to tour local biomedical and biodefense initiatives.
The senator met with top Texas A&M University System officials, including Chancellor John Sharp and Brett Giroir, the system's vice chancellor for strategic initiatives.
The group, along with other System officials, toured the Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies, a biomedical research facility on the Texas A&M campus that is investigating ways to help patients with heart failure and other potentially fatal diseases, such as cancer.
They also showed off the System's National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing, which contains more than 150,000 square feet of space for biopharmaceutical manufacturing, advanced development and workforce training designed for the biosecurity needs of the U.S. government and the commercial biopharmaceutical industry.
Additionally, A&M System officials briefed Cruz on the Center of Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing, a federally funded project that will help produce the vaccines needed in case of a pandemic or biological attack.
"The research that is being done here is changing lives," Cruz said. "It is putting us in a position to be prepared to respond to biomedical threats, to respond to potential pandemics, to respond to threats that could jeopardize the lives of millions of Americans and millions of people from around the world, and Texas is the home for all of it."
The 90-minute trip was Cruz's first to Texas A&M since taking office.
"These facilities here, I am confident going forward, will generate vast numbers of new jobs in cutting-edge technology -- jobs that will be high-skilled, jobs that will be high-paying and jobs that will help ensure that Texas prospers economically going forward into the future," Cruz said. "And I am very glad to see all of this is based here in College Station, Texas."
A System official said the tour was tailored specifically for the senator.
"The senator was very engaged and had quite a bit of knowledge about the subject matter in terms particularly of biosecurity and the emerging threats we're hearing about," Giroir said. "He was very engaged and asked very insightful questions."
Giroir said he was encouraged that Cruz took a personal interest in the A&M initiatives.
"The only way to learn about what's really going on is to have boots on the ground," Giroir said. "Any time a senator or anyone at a high level in Washington can come here to meet the people, to see the facilities, to understand the issues, that's going to benefit us because it's different than seeing a PowerPoint slide."
At a press conference after the tour, Cruz answered three questions -- one from each reporter present.
He said he did not know if the "Gang of Eight" senators were close to a deal on immigration reform.
"We have not seen a draft of any legislation," Cruz said. "I think there's a lot of bipartisan agreement on many, many areas of immigration. Number one, there's wide bipartisan agreement that we have to get serious about securing our border. It doesn't make sense in a post-9/11 world that we don't know who is coming into our country. ... number two ... we need to improve and streamline legal immigration. We need to remain a nation that not only welcomes but celebrates legal immigrants."
Additionally, he touched on some of the cutting-edge research and sensitive topics that some of the government officials said contributed to the tour being private.
"We also saw facilities that are being used for biomedical research -- clean labs that are able to research vaccines, research new threats and existing threats ... ultimately to help prepare us as a nation for the threats that may come," Cruz said. "They may come naturally or they may come through the use of bioterror."
The senator also talked more about repealing The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a topic he addressed earlier Monday at a press conference in Austin.
"Reality has not lived up to the promises," Cruz said. "That's the reforms we need, the reforms that empower patients rather than putting government bureaucrats in between patients and our doctors."
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